Guns: Will any new laws make a difference?
The epidemic of mass shootings in America is really not a “complicated problem to puzzle out,” said David Frum in TheAtlantic.com. In statements after last weekend’s back-to-back massacres by young men armed with weapons of war, President Trump and other Republicans variously blamed the phenomena on mental illness, video games, declining religiosity, “hatred,” and “evil.” But these same problems exist in other developed nations—and yet it’s only in America that citizens are shot to death en masse with numbing regularity. The Japanese, for example, spend far more per capita on video games but average fewer than 10 gun deaths a year, compared with our 40,000. What’s different about our country? Simple: This is the only developed nation where “it is not only legal, but easy and convenient, to amass a private arsenal of mass slaughter.” That needs to change, said the New York Post in an editorial, starting with a reimposition of an assault-weapons ban. We can’t stop all disaffected young men from venting their rage on innocent civilians. But at least we can take away the “murder machines” that let them rack up such horrific body counts.
There is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” said Charles Cooke in NationalReview.com. The AR-15 and AK-47 used in Dayton and El Paso, respectively, have the same “rate of fire” and are only cosmetically different from every other semi-automatic rifle on sale in the U.S., including most hunting rifles. The AR-15 has become “the most popular rifle in America,” with up to 15 million in private hands, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment protects weapons that are in “common use.” The reality is that “every gun is designed to kill,” said David Harsanyi in TheFederalist.com. Short of mass confiscation of 300 million guns already in circulation, which isn’t going to happen, no law is going to stop a determined madman or terrorist from obtaining a weapon and fulfilling his bloody fantasies.
It’s true that “no law can legislate the crazies and the truly evil out of existence,” said Scott Jennings, former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in the Louisville Courier-Journal. But there are common-sense measures that would make a difference. A ban on high-capacity magazines, in particular, would force mass shooters to stop and reload, giving police a better chance to end their rampages. In Dayton, the shooter used a 100-round drum that enabled him to fire 41 rounds in just 30 seconds. Both gun owners and gun-control advocates can support “red-flag laws,” said David French in NationalReview.com, which would let authorities seize the guns of the “dangerously mentally ill,” domestic abusers, and people “exhibiting threatening behavior.” If “properly drafted” to ensure due process, such laws can remove firearms from people “who have demonstrated by their own conduct that they’re not fit to own a weapon.”
This grieving nation shouldn’t expect much change, said Jill Lawrence in USA Today. Republicans don’t dare jeopardize their “political identities as the people who let you keep your guns—any kind you want, as many as you want, with magazines as big as you want.” Such “absolutism” may no longer be a political winner, said Ed Kilgore in NYMag.com. The once-powerful NRA is riven by scandal and is losing its clout, while Republicans are worried that their “slavish opposition” to gun control is alienating millions of suburban moderates. A growing number of Americans are frightened and utterly disgusted by the carnage, and will no longer settle for politicians’ “thoughts and prayers.” ■